Lana and Lilly Wachowski’s seminal 1999 The Matrix is easily one of the most celebrated and iconic films of its era. With its pioneering special effects and influential story, it has become something of a gold standard for its genre – a gold standard that the second and third films in its series failed to live up to (not to mention the various comic books, video games and other media). Almost 20 years on, a fourth film joined the ever-expanding franchise with the aptly-titled The Matrix Resurrections.
Produced, co-written and directed by Lana Wachowski (sans Lana who said she needed time away from the industry to reconnect with herself as an artist), Resurrections does unfortunately pander somewhat to newcomers, while aggressively suffering under the weight of its exposition and fan service. The film is packed to the brim with references, while veering wildly from heavy-handedly trying to catch new viewers up on the series’ complex world while also expecting you to remember tiny plot points you probably haven’t considered since the early 2000s.
There is an awful lot crammed into the film’s 148 minutes and while elements of it are very accessible to series newcomers, there is just as much – if not more – that requires a fair chunk of prior knowledge. This inconsistency in its approach proves to be one of its biggest failures. It just doesn’t know what it is! Part-soft reboot, part-sequel, part-revisionist epilogue.
There is nothing here anywhere near as pioneering as the original film’s so-called bullet time, and the action sequences generally feel a little stale. The whole thing does. Of course, developments in CGI mean that we do get a Matrix that feels immersive and real – and yet, it doesn’t have any of the power it did in 1999. Whilst the original was made with heart, this feels rather impersonal. A cash-grab? Maybe. It feels 20 years too late, only justifying the time since the last film by injecting some on-the-nose meta commentary about sequels and franchises. It all gets a little self-indulgent and feels like an inside joke that the audience is not in on.